An internet search for any product or service, especially a hot air balloon ride, presents a bewildering array of choices. How do you pick a company that will ensure you have a safe, enjoyable, and memorable balloon ride experience? We provide the following information to assist you in making an informed purchase. Why do this you may ask? We believe that an educated consumer is the best customer. The ballooning community is much too small to allow unscrupulous vendors with deceptive practices to remain in business. To do so has dire consequences for our industry as a whole. This information and a little effort on your part will allow you to select a company that has your safety and enjoyment as their first priority.
Is the Ride Company I am Considering a Balloon Ride Operator or a Ride Broker?
There is a big difference between the two. A balloon ride operator owns and operates (that is they fly or pilot) the balloon that you will actually fly in. They are in business to sell you the actual ride. A ride broker does not own any balloons and is in business to sell you a gift certificate which is, after all just a piece of paper! One site on the web, Hot air balloon rides has devoted time and energy to approving balloon ride companies as legitimate operators worldwide. You may view their directory of approved balloon ride companies to guarantee that you are dealing with a genuine balloon ride company that operates its own balloons and not just a broker that doesn’t own or fly balloons. This point can be confusing because most balloon ride operators also provide certificates or vouchers for their flights; the difference is that when you purchase a certificate from an operator, you will be flying with that same company when you take your flight.
Why Not Buy from a broker? Your goal is to purchase a safe, affordable, quality flight from a genuine ride company by dealing directly with the company that will provide the service that you purchased. A company that is interested in a level of service that will create a memorable flight experience for their passengers for years to come.
The business model of balloon ride brokers is to sell gift certificates for balloon rides, then pay a local ride company after the certificate holder takes their ride. What is wrong with that you may ask? Especially since the broker is paying the ride company and you have what appears to be a wide selection of companies to choose from. Unfortunately, all too often things are not as they seem. Many times customers are told that they may take their flights in their local area with a legitimate company only to find out after purchase that the local company does not honor the certificate. Customers have reported difficulty redeeming the certificates or of having to travel hundreds of miles to find a company willing to provide the ride. Since the brokers sell their rides at reduced rates, keep a percentage, and then pay the ride company even less, what company would agree to fly these passengers at this price? Many do so because the broker advises them to use these passengers to “fill in” their unwanted or slack times, or whenever they have availability.
This is attractive to some ride operators but it severely limits your options as a paying customer. You may end up with little choice for the dates and times of a flight and may receive less than the expected level of customer service. In the worst case scenario, the ride company may have so badly ruined its own reputation in their local area that it has no customers of its own. It may rely on these broker rides just to stay in business. One of the things many brokers tout is their 100% safety record; how do you have a safety record at all when it appears that you have never flown the first passenger. Lastly, passengers are often told “yes you can” to any request in order to make the sale by brokers. Passengers are seldom given accurate details about the limitations of balloon flight, either because the sales person may not know the real answer or it was not anticipated on the script. Care must be taken when looking for a balloon ride company, online or when responding to a newspaper advertisement, to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company.